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Analyzing Romanticism- William Wordsworth and Tintern Abbey

Updated: Oct 4, 2022



William Wordsworth (7, April 1770 - 23, April 1850) is one of the principal contributors to the Romantic movement. Romanticism focuses on pursuing nature as an absolute. It extols the medieval past and ignores Classicism.


Take a look at Sophie Scarlette's blog on the Poetry Cove Blog to read the Romantic journey of a poet- Making Poetry of One's Life.


Table of Contents


Wordsworth influenced English Romanticism. This equates the organic design of nature to the inevitability of human imagination and inventiveness. That is, the spirit of human endeavor finds a likened force in the spontaneity of nature.





With Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth lyrically embodies all of the heightened features of nature's beauteous realm and relates them to childhood experience, memory, and harnessing a quiet sanctuary of one's inner mind.


The narrative-like sequence of Tintern Abbey structures the poem as a reflective piece. Wordsworth mentally harvests the wild, untouched joy of the surrounding nature of the medieval ruin.



He then grants the feast of nature to frame his contemplative thought in written poetic form. Wordsworth embraces the absolute free will and independent spirit of nature as he accounts the changing scenery around the ruins of Tintern Abbey since his last visit five years back.



The Cistern Abbey of Tintern is one of the more prominent Abbeys of Wales. The monastery belonged to the Cistern order founded in 1098. Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131 by Walter de Clare.


The principal feature, the church (a Gothic masonry), was built from 1269 to 1301. The machinery of the monastery dissolved under the rule of King Henry VIII in the earlier 1530s. It has lain in disrepair since.


Tintern Abbey is located in the Wye valley, in Wales. Fortunately, it was not subjected to the untoward wreckage of the Wars of Edward II (reign 1307-1327). In 1901 the lot was acknowledged for its value in heritage and sold to the crown. It stands today, quiet, mysterious a retreat for the imagination.



This arresting ruin lays under siege to the sky, the ceiling fell to disrepair lifetimes ago.


There remain small indents in the vast stone walls that served to store books- written and preserved by the monks of the Cistern order.


The immense windows soaring to the heavens were once a resplendent arrangement of stained glass windows.


The floor of the monastery is now blanketed in grass- nature has clearly laid claim through the rite of time- a space formerly avowed to a Christian god.





Streams of conscious awareness transcribed in the poem detail how sight and sound assist in transforming individual experience.


These transformative moments are encapsulated in the reservoirs of the poet's memories. These memories are held by him and shared with his sister Dorothy.




Dorothy an external companion relays the magnificent bounty of nature and reflects the heightened emotion of the expedition of both poet and sister around the ruins. This connects with the readers on a personal level, and better allows us to share in the experience- the spiritual outcomes.




The poem itself journeys towards a space of healing and regeneration. It elevates mood triggered by enticing the remembered sensations of the wild and free sequence of occupying nature.


In his Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802), Wordsworth explains that poetry cannot be fashioned when a poet is momentarily seized by emotion.


Poetry is the collection of meditative recollections, reflections interlaced with the artistry of fantasy.


Wordsworth highlights the function of memory in the Romantic blueprints of literature.



The relaying of emotional memory to readers develops a report, (an engagement) whereby readers can relate their own emotional memories and simultaneously be transported by the poem.


Take for example Wordsworth's I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud often referred to as Daffodils, the daydream tone underlying the poem is revealed at the end to be a recollection of the sensory elevation upon encountering a host, of golden daffodils.


The experience visits and revisits Wordsworth, through recollection, and finds him during unremarkable and ordinary moments for example, when on a couch in pensive mood.


Abbey is a manifestation of the inner soliloquy of Wordsworth while he was walking through Wye.


He endeavours to capture the truth of the felt communion with nature.


Truth is a quality of Romanticism that artists, writers, and poets believed in and attempted to portray. Nature was observed as a testament to truth and the inherent intricate quality of spirit.



Spontaneity, truth, and the natural form of beauty are why Wordsworth doesn't write in established poetic convention and design. As he occasionally and deliberately breaks meter. (Mentioned Below)


Romanticism was influenced by the charge of ideas surrounding individualism of the 19th century. Individualism speaks to the inherent moral worth unique to all people.


Wordsworth writes Tintern Abbey in blank verse to allow the freedom of no rhyming scheme to properly convey the meaning and intent of the poem.


Blank verse is a form of poetry structured in iambic pentameter and it doesn't have a rhyming scheme.


Iambic pentameter is the most frequently used meter in English poetry. The English verse is frequently governed by the iambic rhythm stressed timed rate.


Wordsworth's use of iambic pentameter in Tintern Abbey endeavours to keep the form spontaneous and natural.


Wordsworth ventures to maintain natural speech patterns, and slightly breaks the metric form. The poem's simplicity is salient and is meant to encompass an extensive audience.

Tintern Abbey was written 223 years ago, and the former monastic structure resonates its power of mystery and beauty to many to this day.


Although Tintern Abbey is written in the title of the poem, there is no reference to the structure in the poem itself.


Wordsworth walks the banks of the Welsh River Wye and focuses on the rendering beauty of nature, and how this informs his better self.




Wordsworth explores mysticism and the well-spring of medieval philosophy, art, architecture, and literature.


Romanticism was born on the back of the French Revolution (1787-1799), ideals of enlightenment, ethics, and the metaphysical swept through literature and art.


Free will and self-determination were penetrating the psychology of so many who were eager to form and discover their own voices.



Laws governed by the natural were celebrated over the corrupted rule- structured on the strictures of might, armory, and muscle.


Tintern Abbey was published by Wordsworth in a slender collection of poems entitled Lyrical Ballads with his peer and friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge.


The collection included Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. (See Poem)


The second publication had a preface (mentioned earlier) in which Wordsworth details his and Coleridge's poetic principles.


A young Wordsworth had exhibited- in the collection, a climax of maturity in thought and self-awareness.


This was the time just before his more renowned and revered works were to be composed.


Thank you to Adam Gary and my piers in the Poetry Cove for a chance with this legendary poem.




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